As would be expected, when I attended my friend, Aliina’s, wedding a few weeks ago, the words in the vows, “In Sickness and In Health”, sank straight to my heart when I heard them.
I have thought about these words from John’s and my own vows several times in the past few months. They usually come to my mind when I am doing something that I am tired of doing or when I’m exhausted. Like when John was in the hospital and I slept on a fold out chair for seven nights or my clothes got wet when I took a shower because the bathroom was so small and water leaked out onto the floor. Or when I am sitting at the table eating dinner and I have to get up five times to get John something he needs. Or I have to get up in the middle of the night with John because he can’t breath and needs his back rubbed. Or I hear him moaning because he’s in so much pain.
These words, these vows, have such a deeper meaning for me than I ever expected they would. Over the years when I’d hear these vows I would think of taking care of your spouse when he gets a cold or a stomach virus or the flu. Sure, I’ll bring you some chicken noodle soup and Ginger Ale. I’ll even bring you some Tylenol when you need it.
But never until now have I completely understood what “In Sickness and In Health” truly means and why they are in our marriage vows. Sickness – the kind that is daunting and long-lived – becomes your life. As much as you try to not let it, it does. Every moment of every day, every decision, every thought hinges on the sickness that has invaded your life – physical, spiritual, and emotional.
I have thought about this, too, with children who have serious, possibly incurable, illnesses. I sometimes volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, and I see families who’s lives revolve around the illness of their child with possibly no end in sight. Or I think about the children I’ve taught over the years with conditions such as Autism whose families, along with themselves, will live with it for the rest of their lives.
These are the reasons the words “In Sickness and In Health” are in our Christian wedding vows. Our wedding vows are a covenant to each other, but they are more importantly a covenant with God. These words have to be a part of our covenant with God because apart from God, His grace, His strength, and His provision, the vows we make are extremely difficult to uphold, if not impossible. The temptation is to have self-pity, demand your rights, or even completely give-up.
However, for me, when these temptations come, I remember “In Sickness and In Health”, and I remember that this is a covenant that I made with God. Not on my own, but with Him. On our wedding day we invited God into our marriage, so I am not alone, and I do not have to do this marriage or this sickness alone. God gives me everything I need to continue on because He is with me.